Happy Wednesday! The Dispatch softball team had a game last night, and, because we’re telling you about it, you can safely assume we won.
Also, please give a warm TMD welcome to our intern for the summer: Jacob Wendler is joining us from Northwestern University, and we’re thrilled to have him on the team for the next few months.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Hunter Biden reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Delaware, court filings showed Tuesday. The president’s son will plead guilty to two misdemeanor federal counts for failure to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018, while prosecutors consented to a “pretrial diversion agreement” for a charge of illegal possession of a firearm, meaning Biden must meet certain conditions under the deal before the gun charge is removed from his record. Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss said the investigation into Biden is “ongoing,” suggesting additional matters beyond the tax and firearm charges may be included in the probe first opened in 2018. The deal must be approved by a federal judge.
- Florida District Judge Aileen Cannon set an August 14 trial date in the criminal case against former President Donald Trump over his alleged mishandling of classified documents and obstruction of justice. That aggressive timeline will likely be pushed back, however, by pre-trial motions from Trump’s legal team and security clearance investigations—which can take months—for lawyers in the case who need to view classified documents that are evidence in the trial.
- The Pentagon announced Tuesday that an accounting error led the U.S. government to overestimate the cost of military aid to Ukraine by $6.2 billion. The Department of Defense revealed the error—caused by counting items’ replacement costs instead of their depreciated value—last month but initially estimated the miscount at only $3 billion. The Pentagon said it will use the extra funds to send Ukraine more aid.
- A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a 2021 Arkansas law prohibiting gender transition medical treatments for minors. Several other GOP-led states, including Texas and Florida, have enacted similar laws, and a judge in Indiana on Friday temporarily blocked that state’s law from going into effect. Arkansas’ Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin said he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
- One of three Chinese scientists who became sick with an unknown illness during the initial COVID-19 outbreak was reportedly funded by the U.S. government and studying coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Technology. Researcher Ben Hu presented COVID-like symptoms when he and the other scientists became sick in November 2019, lending credence to the theory that the virus may have leaked from a lab. The intelligence community remains divided on COVID-19’s origin, with two agencies concluding it may have come from a lab and four (plus the National Intelligence Council) attributing transmission from animals—though none of the agencies have a high level of confidence in their assessments.
- The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that China and Cuba are negotiating the installation of a joint military training facility on the northern coast of the island. The Biden administration has reportedly been in contact with Havana to voice opposition to the planned base, which could pave the way for Chinese troops to be permanently stationed roughly 100 miles from the U.S. mainland. Yesterday’s report followed confirmation of a Chinese listening station on the island.
- The Justice Department notified banks Tuesday that, following years of corporate consolidation in the financial sector, it plans to begin scrutinizing bank mergers more intensely. The updated antitrust review process will cover factors like interest rates, fees, and customer service, with Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter saying yesterday the agency’s current focus on “local market deposit concentration” is inadequate.
- The State Bar of California began disbarment proceedings Tuesday against John Eastman, the Trump-aligned lawyer who wrote a memo arguing former Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Eastman is facing 11 disciplinary charges related to his election scheme, and if the State Bar decides against Eastman, it may recommend his law license be suspended or revoked. The final decision, however, would be up to California’s Supreme Court.
- Fox News announced Tuesday that chief political correspondent Bret Baier and daytime host Martha MacCallum will co-moderate the first Republican presidential primary debate, to be held at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum on August 23. To qualify for the debate stage, candidates must meet the Republican National Committee’s strict fundraising and polling requirements—in addition to complying with the RNC’s controversial loyalty pledge—by August 21.
Two weeks ago, President Trump was indicted on 37 criminal counts related to his retention of classified documents. Yesterday, the son of the current president reached a plea deal with the Justice Department over tax and firearm charges. Surely lawmakers and pundits on both sides of the aisle will dive into the complex set of facts surrounding each case and assess the disparate outcomes independently and on the merits.
The plea agreement—revealed Tuesday morning by a federal court filing in Delaware—marks a significant milestone in the long-running investigation into Hunter Biden’s financial activities, international business dealings and tawdry behavior, but the political ramifications of the First Son’s behavior are yet to be determined. Coming on the heels of Trump’s unprecedented federal indictment, yesterday’s deal—which will likely keep Hunter out of jail—had Republicans up in arms and vowing to continue their own various investigations into the so-called “Biden Crime Family.”